I’ll be completely honest—my honeymoon, nearly 20 years ago, wasn’t all that great. I was sick in bed with the flu the whole first week on Kauai. The second week, my husband and I decided to try our hand at windsurfing on Maui. While I was feeling better, it was grueling. We ended each day bandaging our blistered hands (a side effect of gripping the boom when you’re a beginner windsurfer) and swatting away cockroaches and other flying insects that inhabited our little rental house in the pineapple fields.
With the help of amazing grandparents who have been brave enough to babysit our 4 kids, we’ve made up for this less-than-stellar start to our marriage by taking a few honeymoon do-overs. The concept of a “second honeymoon” makes a lot of sense, if you think about it. A few years into your marriage, you’ve gotten into a groove with your spouse, paid down your student loans, and maybe even saved up a little to splurge on your accommodations (no more cockroaches for me, thank you!) Not to mention the wonders that spending time away from the kids, the job, and the daily grind of life can do for your marriage. It’s a lot more fun than therapy, I can assure you.
So, don’t put it off any longer. Whether you are planning a big anniversary, or just some romantic time away with your partner, here are 5 recommendations of where to spend your next honeymoon, a vacation that could quite likely be better than the first!
1. Capri, Italy
Arriving at the Marina Grande, Capri (courtesy of sundaynightpaper.com)
The island of Capri, off the coast of Naples, has been a getaway for the rich and famous since ancient Roman times. In fact, Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux had just checked out of the JK Place a few days before we checked in. Once the home of a wealthy Italian family, the JK offers the amenities of a hotel, but a distinctly more personal experience. For all its designer decor and state-of-the-art technology, the atmosphere is intimate, and the staff unfailingly kind. You feel more like you are staying at your (really rich) friend’s home than a hotel. Simone Giorgi, the General Manager, has a discreet but elegant way of making all of his guests feel like A-listers, greeting each of them at the front door upon arrival and bidding them “fair well” when they depart.
The hotel’s living spaces include an elegant, sky-blue foyer, a cozy library filled with books and games, and a dining room that lays out a magnificent breakfast spread each morning, with fresh fruits, local cheeses and homemade breads. Outside you’ll find a large lap pool with teak loungers, a spa and fitness facility, and a small winding path leading down to the beach.
The view from the JK Place Capri (courtesy of the JK Place )
One of the joys of staying at the JK is sipping limoncellos on the veranda that overlooks drop-dead gorgeous views of the Bay of Naples and the Amalfi Coast. You’ll feel like you’ve died and gone to heaven. After the day-trippers have left the island, take a taxi to the Piazzetta and stroll arm-in-arm along the garden-lined paths of the main town, gelato in hand. If you time it just right, there are few things more beautiful than the full moon rising between the Faraglioni rocks, sparkling its light across the dark blue water.
The best way to explore Capri and the Amalfi Coast is from the water. Several boat companies can take you on a tour (either half or full day; 3-4 hours or 7-8 hours, respectively). Our captain was informative and fun. We were free to move about the boat and hop off at places like the Emerald Grotto, which was beautiful and less crowded than the famous Blue Grotto.
2. Bodrum Peninsula, Turkey
Boats in the harbor in Bodrum City, Turkey
There is a reason why celebrities like Ronaldo, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Russell Crowe flock to the cosmopolitan Bodrum Peninsula, an easy one-hour flight from Istanbul. Often referred to as the “St. Tropez of Turkey,” the posh little towns that dot the Aegean coast are home to a number of upscale hotels, wonderful seafood restaurants and trendy beach clubs.
If romance is what you are after, the Amanruya will not disappoint. Set amidst ancient olive groves and a Mediterranean pine forest overlooking the sea, the hotel is an oasis of calm and luxury. We were scooped up at the airport by the hotel’s swank black Mercedes, and greeted when we arrived by our gracious host-managers, Nick and Christine Juett. Check in was done seamlessly in our private “cottage,” which was palatial in size with marble floors, a four-poster bed and an enormous Cleopatra tub. Little extras like an espresso machine and fresh fruit and snacks that were replenished each day helped us to settle in to our “home.” Outside, we had our own private pool, shower and covered sunbed. There was no reason to ever leave the room, except for the lure of swimming in the turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea and the Olympic-sized infinity pool.
Private cottage with pool at the Amanruya, Turkey (courtesy of the Amanruya)
The beach club, a 5-minute golf cart ride down a dirt path, offered a limited number of loungers and sun beds under the shade of the trees, as well as a small menu of fresh fish and Turkish “mezzes” (appetizers). There was a small sailboat, as well as paddle boards and kayaks available to use. The hotel will schedule private in-room massages and yoga classes, but there is no spa to date.
Infinity pool at the Amanruya, Turkey (courtesy of the Amanruya)
In typical Aman fashion, the service was impeccable, without being stuffy. No request went unheeded. The chef was able to accommodate my dairy-free, gluten-free diet. A rental car was delivered to us at the hotel to save us a trip to the airport. We were greeted each time we arrived back at the hotel after an excursion with cold towels, icy drinks and big smiles all around. The hotel will help you rent a gullet for a day of sailing, and excursions to historical sites like Ephesus, the house of the Virgin Mary, and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, an early monument to love and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Visiting Turkey is like taking a class in ancient history (my husband loved it!) We rented a car, which gave us the opportunity to stop at lesser-known archeological sites along the coast, including Aphrodisias and the Temple of Apollo. We had no problem driving ourselves—the roads are well-paved and well-marked.
For a more up-tempo experience, the Macakizi hotel just down the road from the Amanruya is a popular haunt among the jet-setting crowd in Turkey. Although stylish posh spot may have started its life as a bohemian B&B, today it’s frequented by a bronzed and beautiful crowd that can be found lounging by the Aegean or sipping Raki (the anise-flavored national drink of Turkey) at the trendy beach club bar. It’s definitely a party scene, with electronic house music thudding in the background at all times of the day and night. Warning: after a few days at the Macakizi, you might feel a bit jet-lagged as the day begins around 1pm and end around 6am.
Decks at the Macakizi (courtesy of Macakizi)
Visually, the Macakizi is the epitome of “minimalist chic.” Draping with hot pink bougainvillea, Macakizi’s gardens spill down the hill to the turquoise sea, where wooden decks take the place of a beach. Rooms are small, with white-on-white décor, modern artwork and floor-to-ceiling windows. Unlike the Amanruya, the Macakizi draws you outside of your room to the seaside “scene” of attractive A-list guests. The Nuxe Spa offers top-notch massages (we tried the Thai and the deep-tissue, both wonderful) and traditional Hamman treatments. If you want to check out some boutiques and restaurants, it’s an easy 5-minute walk into town. Personally, we saw no reason to pass up the fabulous cuisine at the Macakizi’s Mediteranneo restaurant.
3. Big Sur, California
Of all the romantic places around the world, Big Sur is probably my favorite (and ironically, the closest to home!). Just the drive itself down Highway One from San Francisco is a treat—with hairpin turns, amazing ocean views, and beaches where you and the seagulls are the only ones enjoying the sand.
View of the Pacific from the Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur (courtesy of Post Ranch Inn)
If you can afford to splurge, the Post Ranch Inn is a spot that will make an imprint on your memory forever. Don’t be worried when you the windy driveway leads you to a simple, rather nondescript reception building. The design aesthetic of the hotel, care of architect Mickey Muennig, is “rustic-luxe,” with lines blurred between the great outdoors and inside spaces. Each guest room is architecturally unique—you’ll find a tree house built on stilts nine feet off the ground, and a 3-story butterfly-shaped room with outstretched wings. We stayed in a “Lower Coast House,” and the view from our deck was pure joy—not to mention the wood-burning fireplace, private deck and outdoor hot tub.
View from the coastal view room at the Post Ranch Inn (courtesy of Post Ranch Inn)
Spending time at the Post Ranch Inn is all about checking out of life and “being” one with nature and the person you are with. Cell phone coverage is iffy at best, and there are no televisions in the rooms. Funny thing is, we didn’t really miss the TV at all. There’s great hiking in the majestic Redwoods, a full-service spa, two heated infinity pools (one lined with jade, which supposedly has healing properties), and complimentary yoga and meditation classes in a yurt. Be sure to schedule a session with the shaman, or spiritual healer, if he is around when you are there!
4. Phuket or Koh Samui, Thailand
The island of Phuket in Thailand lives and breathes intimacy, and there is no better place to spend a romantic vacation than at the Trisara, a small, ultra-luxe boutique hotel that has counted Kate Moss, Demi Moore, and Hilary Clinton among its guests. Each room at the hotel is actually a private villa, with separate sleeping, living and dining areas and a private pool with ocean views. We got a little spoiled having a dedicated “butler” available to us, to do laundry, make beds and prepare meals– a treat every women needs once in a while! Although the hotel has a private beach, we found it hard to pull ourselves away from our villa’s spacious deck and lap-sized infinity pool overlooking the sea.
The amenities at the Trisara are hard to beat, including use of a private yacht, a state-of-the-art fitness center with ocean views, tennis courts and access to the golf course at the nearby Blue Canyon Country Club.
Villa with pool at the Trisara Phuket (courtesy of Trisara)
Depending upon the time of year that you travel, another romantic getaway in Thailand is the laid-back island of Koh Samui. If you’re planning your trip for January to April, there’s not a significant difference in weather, but from May to September Samui is quite a bit drier than Phuket. The Four Seasons Koh Samui is laid out on a hillside overlooking the Guff of Siam. You can choose between sunbathing at your private pool villa, at the beach, or at the resort’s large infinity pool where attentive attendants will offer cool towels or spritz you with water upon request.
No matter where you chose to stay in Thailand, don’t leave without setting off a sky-lantern (khom loi) on the beach at night. It’s a Thai tradition that is believed to bring good luck. Make a wish as the lantern lifts up and drifts gracefully up into the night sky. It’s truly magical.
Sky lanterns over the beach in Phuket, Thailand (courtesy of canvas-of-light.com)
5. Bali, Indonesia
Ah, Bali…. Is there anything negative that can be said about this beautiful island in the middle of the Indian Ocean? Okay, maybe the journey there, which is a whopping 20-plus hour flight from Los Angeles. But once you’ve arrived, there is not much to complain about. Bali has it all– rice paddies cascading down hills, crystal water lapping at white sands, volcanoes reaching into the clouds, and landscapes dotted with temple ruins. The Balinese people are some of the friendliest hosts in the world—welcoming you with open arms and making you feel safe and at home.
There is no shortage of romantic resorts on Bali, including the Bulgari Resort (which was being built when we were there), the Banyan Tree Ungasan, the Four Seasons Sayan, and the Oberoi in Semanyak. We stayed at the Oberoi, one of the island’s oldest luxury resorts, and still beautiful and pristine today.
Beachfront at the Oberoi, Bali (courtesy of Oberoi Hotels)
Some of the positives of the Oberoi: prime beachfront location within walking distance from restaurants and night clubs; thatched roof Balinese-style villas, some with private plunge pools; authentic Balinese dinners and dance shows at the Amphitheatre. Negatives: Being close to nightlife means there can be noise at night; the sea is beautiful but often too rough for swimming; WiFi is an additional $20 per day.